Updated 6-03-2010
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" Speak where the bible speaks, silent where the bible is silent"
Spirit (mental disposition of the inspired N.T. authors)

    It's been a long standing debate, 170 years and going back even further to ancient times over the use of instruments in worship service. A large amount of the debate has to do with the use of the motto "Speak where the bible speaks, silent where the bible is silent" by Thomas Campbell. The motto was not to be used as a scripture, but because of the circumstances (birth of new nation offering freedom of religion) in Campbell's times, became a very effective tool reaching out to especially people within denominations (centralize hierarchy), who taught and practice many non scriptural teachings, practices.   
   In years to come the motto faltered some, because it wasn't a scripture, was only a motto, having many strengths but also some weaknesses, became to some degree liken to a creed, scripture. The word of God in some places, needed a much more in depth discerning, understanding the particular usages in words and especially circumstances that existed 2,000 years ago. This is why the word of God won't speak as apparent to the readers hundreds, thousands of years later.
    The weakness of the motto manifest in a minority of churches of Christ, as one cup churches who see it's a sin using more then one cup during a church service, or no kitchen churches who see it's a sin having a kitchen in the church building and some other particularities amoung other even fewer congregations. Due to they are not perceiving the spirit, mental disposition, intent of Christ and his apostles words. Instead they are holding to a motto, so rigidly, strict that it blinds them on a few topics in the bible.
    After 20 some years of reflection and study, looking carefully for the spirit (mental disposition of the inspired author) concerning instruments, and the realization of an unique circumstance that existed 2,000 years ago, the evidence points to liberty, not encourage or not forbidden either, of the use of instruments in worship, service.

 The scripture that is mostly in contention is :

Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody (psalming) in (instead of the word "in" ASV and greek interlinear used the word "with") your heart to the Lord 20 giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father

Filled with the Spirit

Strongs Concordance 4151 spirit = vital principle, mental disposition, etc

    The Holy Spirit or Spirit Holy (in Greek), is the holy intent, holy mental disposition, holy thoughts, holy understanding of the written words in the inspired speaker or inspired writer of the New testament. We have the completeness of full age of  knowledge of all necessary spoken words and written,
recorded in letters contained in the New Testament for man to have the complete Holy Spirit.

Jesus said in John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit (mental disposition), and they are life.

Jesus said in John 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

2 Timothy 316 Every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. 17 That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.


Some would say instruments can't speak. Paul shows an example, how instruments emit sound, tell a message.

Speaking = Strong's concordance 2980, a prolonged form of an otherwise obsolete verb; to talk, i.e. utter words:--preach, say, speak (after), talk, tell, utter.

1 Corinthians 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

    Something of interest, the motto" Speak where the bible speaks, silent where the bible is silent" , notice the words "speaks". Does the bible actually speaks, emit vocal words or even a sound? No, however speaks has the usage "tell" . Campbell took the liberty of the word speaks, and use the usage "tell", not actually emit words vocally, or even a sound, instead it tells a message, silently,  when one reads its words.

 Making Melody, Psalming:

    The words "making melody", in the more direct greek interlinear, renders them as "psalming". Psalming is either melodies vocal, instrumental or both combined.

Strong's concordance 5567 = yallw psallo, psal'-lo  probably strengthened from psao (to rub or touch the surface; compare 5597); to twitch or twang, i.e. to play on a stringed instrument (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes):--make melody, sing (psalms).

    It was a law, statue of God, to use instruments in the book of psalms (not that we are any longer under this statue, but only to show how psalms, psalming has the intent, mental disposition to the Jewish man, the use of either form of melodies, vocal, instrumental, or both combined).
Psalms 81:1 To the chief Musician upon Gittith, [A Psalm] of Asaph. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. 2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. 3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. 4 For this [was] a statute for Israel, [and] a law of the God of Jacob.

Times, age:

    The times, age in which the verse was written, is instrumental melody wasn't written down on paper as yet, not invented yet until hundreds of years later and recorded on record, tape, cd, mp3 are very recent inventions. Instead instrumental melody could only be written or better said remembered, recorded in the heart in this particular age, time.


    The word heart , used by Jesus, its referred to as a place where you have your treasures, a repository of your treasures,  this is a place in your mind. Your treasured intellect, such as a spouse, children, the word of God, Jesus, and God, etc. Both vocal and especially instrumental melodies were stored in the heart in this particular age, time.

Matthew 6:19-24 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.

Luke 6:45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil [man] out of the evil [treasure] bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Giving Thanks Always

A particular spirit (mental dispostion) we should be filled with is giving thanks aways.


     Last of all, notice the context there is no description of particularly worship service, an assembly. Notice it says previous "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit". This don't sound as if Paul is pointing out when we assemble for service, but instead everyday life. The context has no mention about the assembly. If Paul had prohibited instrumental melody, then because of the context not specifying, it then would be the assembly and everyday life, while even alone we wouldn't be permitted to have instrumental melody.


    Having these seven insights, one will have the necessary tools to discern the proper spirit (mental disposition) of Paul when he wrote the words.

  • Spirit: is the mental dispostion, intent (is not an emotional frenzy)
  • Speaking: Tell, figuratively (Paul gives us an example of an instrument sound, tells a message)
  • Psalming: Melodies vocal, instrumental or both combined.
  • Times, Age: Instrumental melody wasn't written down on paper as yet, not invented until hundreds of years later, instead they were written or better said remembered, recorded in the heart.
  • Heart: Place in your mind where you have your treasures, a repository of your treasures. Both vocal and especially instrumental melodies could be only stored in the heart, in this particular age, time.
  • Giving Thanks aways.
  • Context: Context states no particular period of time mention to practice these things, it would be concluded we are to practice these things even while alone. If Paul had exclude instrumental all together, then even while alone we wouldn't be permitted to have instrumental melody.

     The primary purpose of the directive of Paul in the verse, is to be filled with the spirit.
    The spirit isn't an emotional frenzy
to seduce men into believeing sinner prayer saves, as seen on tv, by the Contemporary Evangelical Movement. Instead the spirit is the mental disposition, intent of the will of God in the words written. Singing can reveal, tell, the mental disposition of God, and so can instrumental melody. For when even instrumental melodies alone are heard by our ear, we remember the words that accompanied them, revealing, telling, figuratively speaking, filling us with the spirit, mental disposition of God.
    The word "speaking" use by Paul, has shown in the bible a particular meaning, to tell figuratively without literal words.
The usage to figuratively speak, was used by the Apostle Paul, when explaining about instruments and by Apostle John, in revelations. Thomas Campbell in his famous motto used the word "speaks", not literally telling, speaking, but figuratively telling, speaking, messages when reading the bible. We have two Apostles using the figurative meaning, to tell without literal words, in the word "speaking", and even Thomas Campbell himself the same. With this foundation of the particular usage of the word "speaking" the conclusion can be made, Paul's mental disposition, spirit, intent was the figurative meaning, he applied to the words "speaking to yourselves" concerning singing and psalming (vocal or instrumental). For even singing isn't literal speaking.
    Then there is the strong evidence Paul's use of the broader usage word "psalming" (has the meaning of vocal, instrumental, or combined), does not distinguish either particular form of melodies. Paul's selection of word "psalming, making melody" provided them with liberty, or freedom of either form of melody of the psalms, treasured in their repository their heart.
    The additional circumtance, which I never heard a brother preacher ever shed light upon is instrumental melody could only be stored in the heart in this time, age. Paul is using the word " heart", used in their day as a place where they had their treasures, stored, recorded such as psalms (vocal, especially instrumental could only be stored in the heart in this time period) etc.  Not as some suggest Paul used the heart as your musical instrument liken to an actual musical instrument.
    Then finally there is the context, has no mention of the assembly, this is for everyday life, besides assembly. If one chooses to take the position, Paul's directive instrumental isn't allowed by the verse, then he cannot listen to instruments even outside the assembly.

    What seems so apparent today, face value, is only a mere appearance, from today's cultural first perceptions that is speaking, is due to not being aware or ignoring the time and age,  2,000 years ago,  the circumstances and the meanings of words. Where the motto of Campbell shows some weakness, for what is seemingly apparent today due to cultural perceptions, new meanings to words is what the motto emphasizes at times, but fails to emphasize the circumstances and meanings of words 2,000 years ago.
    Such the case where in the bible is written "sing and psalming with the heart " Greek interlinear Alfred Marshal, which I been advise by a church of Christ minister who studied Greek, as one of the most neutral translations of the Greek, without as much protestant slant. After using it for many years,  its been proven a great resource, along with KJV, ASV, and Strongs' concordance.
    If Paul defined each intent, mental disposition behind the selection of words he used, which would be a long sentence not necessary and because it would be speaking down to his readers.

(singing) vocal melody
(psalming) vocal melody, instrumental melody, or combined both melodies of old testament songs,
with the
(heart) place in your mind where you treasure these

    If I was a Jewish man 2,000 years ago, and read Paul's words "sing and psalming with the heart " as a Jewish man I would understand the broader meaning to the word psalming, means any form of melody that's in psalms, vocal melody alone, instrumental meloday alone, or combined would be follow the directive of Paul. As a jewish man the words "with the heart" is where I stored, treasured in my mind the forms of melody, especially instrumental melody could only be stored in the heart at this time and age
  With the available evidence above, the question shouldn't be if we can use instruments, instrument melody. Paul in the selection of his words, particularly "psalming with the heart" provided the liberty of their use. Supported by the allowed biblical usage of the words in question. Giving support for liberty, was Paul's intent.

    If one concludes the evidence shows this to be the case, then where does it leave us? We have most congregations not using instruments among non denominational churches of Christ, may we practice and persuade others to also follow this practice?

    The questions that we really have before us.

  • What are the benefits and weaknesses in using instrument melody or the non use of instruments?
  • May we persuade others to not use instruments based on benefits alone?

Benefits and Weaknesses

    I can find from my own observations and the observation of many others, there are both weakness and benefits in using instrument melody. However just because I and the majority find more weaknesses using instrument melody, doesn't allow me to then say its a sin using instrument melody. When the words Paul selects by the Holy Spirit, provides liberty in the NT, we cannot say then it's a sin to follow a practice, merely because their may be more perceived weaknesses in their use.
  Where congregations find there are weaknesses to use instrument melody, they have the right not to use them on the perceive weaknesses alone, but should be without condemnation towards them, especially if and when the only difference is the use of them.

Perfect Law of liberty

    Here are some examples (there are many more) where there is no example in the bible of certain practices by the church, but we leave it up to expediency (profitability), liberty the bible affords in certain areas. Which we have certain practices due to perceived benefits, outweigh doing a practice differently. Remember the new testament is refereed to in its writings as the "perfect law of liberty".

James 1:25 But he that looketh into the perfect law, the [law] of liberty, and [so] continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing.

   If we applied the motto "speak where the bible speaks, and silent where it is silent" in it's strictest form, some of the practices below wouldn't be practiced. Sadly a few have done this very thing with condemnation toward others that do it differently. You
see what can happen with a motto, it can become to some as a creed, place on the pedestal equal to scripture. (being non-denominational, there will be some congregations, far right or far left. Even so, having no centralized hierarchy authorized to be formed, insures the best possibility of a remnant of congregations are walking on the narrow path of God's word)

1). Not one example of collecting money on the first day of the week, to take care of the needs of the local congregation, the only example we have in the new testament is collecting money on the first day of the week to be sent to another place, to take care of the poor saints in Jerusalem. Because there is no example, don't mean we can't collect money on the first day of the week to take care of the local congregation. Expediency (profitability, taking care of the congregation needs, buildings, pay for electric, phones, etc.) allows this practice.

2) Not one example of having a large building just for the the congregation to meet at, in the new testament, we only see them meeting at houses, dwelling places of a single family or extended family. Because their is no example of meeting at a set aside building just for the use of the church meeting in, don't mean we can't practice this, we leave it up to expediency ( profitability, easier to meet in a larger set aside building)

3) Not one example of using song books in a worship service in the new testament, instead they had used their hearts, where they remember songs, hymns, psalms, melodies. Because their is not one example of using song books, don't mean we can't use them, due to the printing press hundreds of years ago has made them available, very inexpensive, affordable.

4) Not one example of using multiple cups, while having the lord's supper.

5) No example of having a kitchen in the building where we assemble.

    Something to consider, in revelations it's written the angel sounds the trumpet, an instrument, if instruments were truly prohibited, the use of such descriptive use of an instrument, may of not of been used, as not to encourage their use.

    Many of us cannot read music melody, recorded as notes in a song book, instead we have these melodies stored in our hearts, when we see the words, we remember the melodies associated with them from our hearts. Same as when we only hear the melodies of instruments,  the words are vivid in our minds, stored in our hearts, their speaking, tell their messages, of spiritual matters to us. Instrument melody alone without vocal melody, can easily remind us of once accompanied words, that speak, tell us their messages.

  The word of God, of the early church gives us no example of the use of an instrument in worship, neither many other examples of certain practices, but we leave it up liberty. This I perceive as not to substantiate the thought of having to have to use instruments to please God. This I find very appealing, that God is not in any way more  pleased with the use of instruments. However, Paul in using neutral word "psalming"  concerning the form of melody, meaning  vocal, instrument or combination of both melodies, allows liberty, freedom.
   Notice Paul didn't say use song books, the command of Paul is to use our hearts, as the place where we draw from our  hymns, spiritual songs and psalms (containing vocal and instrumental melody). However in a time when printing wasn't available, a circumstance that gives the reasoning why Paul could only say "with hearts" not "with song books". Due to song books weren't even invented, and not mass produced until the invention of the printing press. We allow the use of songs books because because of circumstance, Paul didn't refer to song books, even though their is not an example of using a song book in the word of God in the early church.
  This is a similar situation, where because of the circumstance instrumental melody wasn't written on paper yet, not invented yet, the heart was where it was written, or better said, remembered, recorded. Paul used the word heart. However today, we lose the meaning of the word heart as Paul intended it, by not discerning the use of the word "heart" in the bible especially by Jesus. Especially in our culture 2,000 years later we infer the word "heart" is a place of feelings, emotions today, and instrumental melody much more seen as written on paper and copied on tapes, cds, and now digitized.

Benefits of Not Using Instruments

   I would rather speak on the benefits of not using instruments to them who may be new to this issue and also to them who are very familiar with this issue. Even though their are benefits to use instruments, I find the benefits of not using instruments, as an enjoyable, very appealing part of service, being when not using instruments there is less focus on individual abilities, and more focus can be be put on scripture, worship, and on individuals that may lack exceptional abilities such using instruments, providing for many a better sense of one another for who they are, not having to perform, etc., less on entertainment. Even so, entertainment does exist in not using instruments too, when individuals can sing much better then others, they usually sing the loudest, and are very welcomed for their vocal, singing abilities, they entertain many, including me.
  From my observations, its the pride, and overly emotional tendencies that seem to occur with using instruments in service, that seem to interfere in discerning some of the real important issues of the bible. We find this used much on TV and other so called churches (Contemporary Evangelical, faith only movement), where the preachers whip their listeners up into an emotional frenzy, to make them think and believe in the sinner's prayer saves. Deceiving many into having an appearance of salvation, but instead been hoodwinked away from salvation, into the deceitful ways of man.
   However this is not to say, that the undesirable tendencies of pride and becoming overly emotional when using instrumental melody, can't be overcome. A careful consideration should be taken, of all these. And let every man make up his own mind, considering especially the circumstances 2,000 years ago. I hope this is of help to you.

By John Nowak

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